"You're such a big mess / But I love you" is the only phrase that can fully encapsulate this absolute beauty of an album.
Often paling in significance to the likes of Darwin Deez and Passion Pit, Los Angeles rock five-piece Grouplove doesn’t always get the credit they truly deserve. Bringing an alternative and artistic take to the indie rock genre, however, this latest release merits a place in musical folklore. Their third LP, following 2011’s Never Trust A Happy Song and 2013’s Spreading Rumours, does indeed show stark similarities to their previous releases, once again using shouty, high-pitched vocals with a unique twist to power through. This time round, they show a greater reliance on powerful electric guitar riffs. This ever-present styling is something that many might see as safe, but the band has found its own unique style and have stuck with it.
Introductory song ‘Welcome To Your Life’ well foreshadows the rest of the album. Its title-lending phrase (“You’re such a big mess / But I love you”) encapsulates what Big Mess is like to listen to, with the high-pitched female vocals reminiscent of a toned-down tUnE-yArDs. ‘Don’t Stop Making It Happen’ continues along this path with the male lead mimicking the woman’s vocals and harmonies between the two in the chorus working perfectly to make a song about being in a K-hole a surprising hit. These lyrics show off Grouplove’s ability to intertwine their lyrics and melody into a story, made all the more prevalent by the rapid changes that the song features.
Each track on Big Mess is like a work of art, with the backing tracks matching the lyrics and titles so perfectly well. ‘Standing In The Sun’ features an acoustic intro that could be sung around a campfire, setting a slower pace which occasionally breaks abruptly into a chorus of overpowering guitar as if the sun is breaking through clouds. ‘Enlighten Me’ uses piano and stylistically modified vocals as well as a choir instead of a backing melody. In ‘Heart Of Mine’ the instrumental effectively acts as a steady metronome for the other components, speeding up as the song progresses. Beginning with a scream and carrying a more rocky feel that abruptly alternates with the contrasting alternative style that has been ever present in Grouplove’s work, ‘Traumatized’ is a genuinely troubling highlight.
Some moments tinker with Grouplove’s traditional formula, like the introduction of ‘Do You Love Someone’ only making me think of Teletubbies and ‘Cannonball’ relying more on suppressed vocals and drum-packed pop-rock sections. Taking it even further afield, the band breaks out the steel drums for ‘Good Morning,’ which begins with a bassy, synthy dance spell before those high-pitched female vocals kick in. This is the one track that made me question the band and whether they were staying true to themselves, especially since the ending is reminiscent of most modern day chart music, however, with lyrics like “Moving till I lose control,” are they implying that they are trying not to conform to other, more popular musical trends? As much as Big Mess plays it safe, Grouplove playing to their strengths resulted in an album that knocks its predecessors out of the park. Where so many other great indie artists have crumbled, it is heartwarming to see a band stick to its roots.
Big Mess is out now via Atlantic